Soho Theatre, London
Runs: 70 mins no interval.
Review: by Carole Woddis of performance seen Feb 26, 2014
With a nod to Edward Albee (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf), Pinter (sexual manipulation) and Strindberg (till death do them part a la Dance of Death), Vicky Jones’s 2013 Verity Bargate Award winner hits where it hurts most. In the heart. And in the solar plexus.
Can this really be a true reflection of the Battle of the Sexes 21st century? Is young womanhood really so hung up on playing games, being hurt and goading a male partner into rapist behaviour? If so, it’s as though the past forty years or more of feminism has gone right down the drain.
Forty years ago, Jones’ portrayal of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s acid tongued Jo would have brought the `sisters’ out in riot. What would Germaine Greer, Marilyn French and the rest have made of Jo’s manipulations and louche dishonesty as she cajoles, jokes, plays the submissive then scorns Harry, played with nuanced authority by Rufus Wright?
A feminist’s nightmare, Jones’s very post-modern take makes uncomfortable but impressive viewing. For one thing, Jones, co-artistic director with Waller-Bridge of DryWrite and director of Waller Bridge’s own award-winning Fleabag writes with unflinching brutalist humour.
Bravely or unwisely (depending on your stance) taking on the explosive subject of rape, she gives us a techni-coloured, up close and personal exploration of emotional dependency where the stakes are trapped dangerously inside a continuing game of role-playing from which neither party can escape.
Cleverly, she also introduces a third party, Kerry, allowing further diversions into definitions of sex between consenting adults where `assumption’ of consent can turn into rape.
Steve Marmion, Soho’s Artistic Director finds every nook and cranny of Jones’ roller-coaster banter. Just when you think Jo and Harry are acting out a Nigella/Saatchi moment of violent encounter, the next they’re into a `thumb war’ talking about an `open relationship where Jo appears to be in control.
But Harry, nonchalant as ever, springs another trap. `Gotcha. I would never. Ever. Share you with f***ing anybody.’
It is Jo however who springs the greatest surprise. And without wishing to give the game away, ultimately, the winner of this highly destructive war of words is anybody’s guess. Depressingly brilliant.
By Vicky Jones
Jo: Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Harry: Rufus Wright
Kerry: Lu Corfield
Director: Steve Marmion
Designer: Anthony Lamble
Lighting Designer: Ben Ormerod
Sound Designer: Gareth Fry
Casting Director: Nadine Rennie CDG
Assistant Director: Sara Joyce
Fight Director: Brett Yount
The One received its world premiere at the Soho Theatre, London on Feb 26, 2014